Photo Credit: Jennie Anne Benigas



February 2018

This month’s Judy’s Journal is the second in my 3-blog series, a reflection on two decades of full-time art making and writing prose and poetry.




A New Decade Begins - Writing

Dear Reader,

Last night, I watched Doug Nichol’s 2017 documentary “California Typewriter.” Any writer of any genre, any age and at any stage of her or his writing career will love this film. It spawned a Christmas memory from when I was 5 years old. I had made a list of my fondest wishes: “#1 – I want a typewriter…”

Early on the 25th, with barely enough light to see my way to the tree, I spied a package with my name on it that had to be my typewriter. It was, but as I quietly opened it, I saw a small red metal toy typewriter, with one wheel for selecting each letter and a painted keyboard where a real one should have been. I had imagined myself sitting with a real typewriter, pounding on a keyboard and creating stories and poems.

I remember thinking that it was a good thing I had unwrapped it alone, because I didn’t want to hurt my mother’s feelings. She would certainly have seen my disappointment. In hindsight, she’d probably explain how much a real typewriter cost and point out that my finger span wouldn’t be wide enough to reach the keys. At the time, I thought: a real writer needs a real typewriter! Crestfallen, I realized that paper and pen would have to do.

I knew I was a writer. Reading constantly made me realize that I wanted to do what writers do. Instead of dolls, I brought books to bed with me, not to read but to comfort me. I came home from the library loaded down with the maximum number of books allowed. The tools were already in my head: language, memories, imagination, story, images.

Twelve years later, I bought an ancient typewriter to write college term papers. Luckily, I had taken typing in high school, but it took practice and strength to bear down on the clunky, old keys. After college, I crated up all my earthly possessions, weighty typewriter included, and moved from Buffalo, New York to Concord, Massachusetts, then to Worcester and a life filled with new manual and electric typewriters, followed by word processors.

Seeing “California Typewriter” made me yearn for one of the beauties displayed so lovingly by collectors and caregivers. To apply that key pressure, hear the resounding click and see the letter appear on the sheet of paper…sigh… And, who knew that Tom Hanks was a typewriter aficionado?

Singer/composer and typewriter fan John Mayer is one of the documentary’s featured interviewees. He described his epiphany, when he tried writing lyrics for the first time on an old typewriter. He just let go and typed anything, without regard for spelling and punctuation. Mayer came up with the most perfect description about how the creative process feels, which I need to paraphrase: When you are creating (song, painting, sculpture, poem, novel, essay), it’s as if you are laying pavement and driving on it at the same time. Absolutely perfect metaphor!

In 1997, when I left full-time teaching, I knew writing could share a front seat with art making. I had a head start on writing because poems, education-themed essays, dissertation and books had been published. In these last twenty years, my horizons have expanded: I have written more poetry and essays, with 3 more books published since 2000. Four years ago, I wrote a reference guide used to train docents. I transcribed and edited someone’s memoir that is now growing into another book. This year, I was asked to write an introduction to an art catalog.

I also can’t forget to mention that since 2004, this monthly blog, Judy’s Journal, is a monthly opportunity to reflect on my writing and artmaking life.

March’s blog will be a look at my poetry writing, and the differences two decades have brought.